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Mar 28 / Vick Mickunas

He’s taken enough candy bars…

In 1979 I started hosting radio shows at a small station in Des Moines. Jazz, I played jazz. The station was called WJAZ. It was actually a cable radio station. One of the early cable TV operations started in Des Moines. When you perused the program listings for their cable service our station was on in the background. Most of our listeners listened on their TVs. They just left that channel on and went about their business like it was a radio station and not just cable TV. If you paid a little extra you could get the station piped through your stereo but those were early days and 99% of our audience listened via the program listings channel. I have been doing radio with just a few interruptions ever since.

My show ran from 8am until noon, Monday through Friday. They didn’t pay me. I did it because I loved it and it was my entry point into radio, something I always dreamed of doing. At noon I would stroll across the street to Beggar’s Banquet, a deli that would have my sandwich ready to pick up within seconds after I popped in. Then I would walk up the block to the record store that I managed. It opened at 11. My shift started when I arrived at a few minutes after noon. We closed at 7 o’clock.

I have worked in retail settings for over half of my life. Radio has never been enough of an income source. You always need a 2nd or even a 3rd or 4th gig to survive. At the moment I am writing this I have 3. I lost the 4th one last week as this plague set in. That’s a job I have had for 25+ years. I have been ordering and stocking the beers at our state liquor store/coffee shop since 1994.

This Trump presidency and his announcement that he plans to keep secret where some of the Coronavirus disaster funds will be going reminded me of something I observed a few years ago at my retail job. Trump’s blatant criminality in which he performs his acts right in front of us without fear of prosecution brought back a memory.

One day I was in the shop. I was quaffing a cup of coffee and looking over my beer inventory. I suppose I looked like a customer instead of an employee. I blended in. A middle-aged couple came into the store. I had seen her before but not him. I assume they were married. They ordered some espresso drinks from the clerk at the counter then went and sat down in the cafe.

I was going about my inspection of the beer on the shelves. I’m sure I appeared to the casual observer to be a customer browsing the selections. The man got up from their table and came back over to the counter. The clerk was busy preparing their drinks. This guy was dressed like a banker, expensive clothes, a tie, I think he even had on cuff links!

He was standing there with his back to me and facing a high cooler that had sandwiches and drinks in it. I have no doubt that he was utterly oblivious to my presence. The clerk was busy making their coffee and paying no heed to him.

That’s when he struck with precision and obvious experience. I was watching him from behind. He reached up quite smoothly and grabbed two expensive chocolate bars from the candy displayed atop the cooler. It took him less than 2 seconds to grasp the candy bars and slickly slip them into one of the back pockets of his trousers. I watched the whole thing.

Then he sensed my presence and turned toward me and launched into some bullshit comments about the weather. I didn’t respond, I just stared at him with an expression that I meant to communicate; OK, you jerk, I saw what you did. Now what are you going to do next?

He started chatting up the clerk as she handed him their coffees. The clerk had no clue that he had just shoplifted us. Then he went back to the table with their coffees and started talking to his companion. I could sense by his body language that he was trying to pretend everything was still copacetic.

At that point I decided that he needed to comprehend that I wasn’t just another customer, that I worked there. I went behind the counter which is elevated above the cafe. I stood there with my arms crossed and stared at the man for several minutes with an expression meant to convey; OK, you white collar thief, are you going to sit there and surprise your companion with a candy bar? How are you going to play this? I have you dead to rights.

About five minutes passed. I was now standing over by the beer again. He got up from the table and walked back over to where he had been standing when he nicked the chocolate. The clerk was once again not paying any heed to his movements. I stood there and watched him as he stealthily removed the candy bars from his pocket and put them back where he had gotten them.

He understood that if he had tried to walk out with the candy I would have been on him like stink on shit. A few minutes later they left the shop in a bit of a rush. They scurried past me. I’m sure she was wondering why he was suddenly in a hurry to leave. I have never seen either of them again. I don’t think they live in town.

Here’s the thing; this guy was clearly a seasoned shoplifter. He dressed like a banker. He was stealthy. He was smooth. He’s got slick moves. But I caught him and he knew it. He realized from my demeanor that I was all ready to shame him, to embarrass him, to bust his larcenous ass.

Trump acts like he can take as many candy bars as he wants without ever paying for them. Nobody is calling him on his crap. I think it is time to bust this shameless mofo. The Trumps have been on a looting spree for years. Somebody needs to do something about it. Otherwise he’ll just keep getting bolder.

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